The Sky's the limit for new Sheffield Crucible and Richard Hawley collaboration

By Adele Forrest | 22/02/2019

The Sky's the limit for new Sheffield Crucible and Richard Hawley collaboration
(L-R) Playwright Chris Bush, singer Richard Hawley and director Robert Hastie at the launch of their new musical Standing at Sky’s Edge, which opens in Sheffield next month.

THREE “legends” will come together as part of the hotly-anticipated new musical Standing at the Sky’s Edge, which opens next month.

Sheffield’s Grade II-listed Park Hill flats have provided the inspiration for the show, which intertwines new and old songs by acclaimed singer Richard Hawley and will be played out at the Crucible Theatre.

Playwright Chris Bush insisted that audiences from around South Yorkshire, and beyond, will be able to relate to the story.

“Everybody might know what it feels like to grow up on estate,” she said. 

“It follows three very different family units at different parts in the buildings history — it’s about what it means to call somewhere home. That to me could not be more universal.

“The more specific story you tell, in lots of ways, the more universal it feels and that’s true of Richard’s music as well.”

The show has been five years in the making and will open on March 14 for its three-week run, starring Doncaster actor Rachael Wooding (below), who recently won huge acclaim for her scene-stealing role in Fat Friends the Musical.

Chris said as a Sheffield playwright she had felt a “huge amount of pressure” to bring together three of the city’s legends — Park Hill, Richard Hawley and the Crucible.

Standing at the Sky’s Edge, which takes the name from a Hawley song, tells the story of three families through 60 turbulent years in a heart-swelling love song to Sheffield’s concrete utopia where there’s “hope hung on every washing line”. 

Chris said: “It’s not biographical, but there’s been a lot of research and sense of responsibility.

“We’re telling real people stories — people will know if you get them wrong.”

Director Robert Hastie said he had enjoyed a night in the pub with a gang of ex-Park Hill residents who grew up playing football together as part of his research.

Robert said: “The story of Park Hill is a drama in itself, from its origins — from utopian streets in the sky, through to the very difficult times in the 1980s and 1990s of being listed, sold off, redeveloped.

“There’s a journey in that that tells us it’s not just the story of that building, it’s also the story of this city and country over the last 60 years.”

The director revealed two famous Park Hill relics won’t feature in the show. The first is the estate’s milk float, for which its corridors were widened, as the creators thought it would be too “Benny Hill” to physically represent it on stage.

The second is the famous ‘I love you will you marry me’ graffiti which was spraypainted onto the front of the building overlooking the city.

Robert added: “As far as we are able to tell it’s quite a sad story and we’ve not been in contact with the man who wrote it. 

“It’s part of the fabric of Park Hill, we certainly refer to it, but the story itself didn’t feel like it was ours to tell.”

Chris added: “When you are writing these things, it’s important to not plant your own flag on someone else’s moon. It would not be very cool to do that.”

Robert reeled off a long list of emotions he was feeling in the run up to the opening, including “exhilarated” and “excited”, but Hawley jokingly interrupted: “Just to be clear, that’s theatre speak for: ‘We’re f****** brickin’ it.”

The Mercury Music Prize nominee, whose music career has spanned 16 years and eight albums, said he had wanted to get involved with the musical because “it was the daftest idea anybody has asked and therefore I had to do it”.

The musician, best known for his hit Tonight the Streets are Ours, added: “It’s not my world. I feel like a salmon swimming upstream and I always enjoy being on the outside lane.”

Hawley, who grew up in Pitsmoor and Firth Park, admitted he used to think musicals were “s****”, but has come to realise he has unknowingly absorbed, and loved, lot of them in his lifetime, from Elvis’ films to Oliver!, and is now “going to live in the Crucible for the rest of my life”.

The singer-songwriter added: “(Standing...) is not necessarily the story of Park Hill, it’s an eye through which we see the passage of post-war history.”

Tickets are priced from £15 and are available at sheffieldtheatres.co.uk or on 0114 249 6000.